The Hong Kong “to do list” and normal life

Day 2,745 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

Ticking off some stuff

pano

Much is carefully recorded within the Saga: modes of transportation, days, locations, contact details etc. In two weeks the ‘Danish Room’ at the Danish Seamen’s Church in Hong will turn forty years. And today marks thirty-six days since my wife came out of her hotel quarantine and entered Hong Kong

Last week’s entry: It is getting harder to complain – still in Hong Kong

While Hong Kong is most definitely a place of opportunity it is also a very special place for Once Upon A Saga. We spent a record setting 102 days in Lebanon due to visa complications relating to Syria. It also wasn’t easy leaving Lebanon without flying. But a friend had a former general in his family who was of assistance and we managed to leave on a container ship. Man! The stories this project contains!! Lebanon entered deep into my heart and I long to return. So many amazing people. And also, a solid commitment and engagement by the Lebanese Red Cross. Ah the Red Cross…the stories I could tell you about the Red Cross. Within Once Upon A Saga we have “infiltrated” 189 National Societies around the world. A National Society is the humanitarian manifestation of either the Red Cross or Red Crescent within a country. You see, the world’s largest humanitarian organization is not like a streamlined company with a single headquarter somewhere. It is a humanitarian organization which is represented in 192 countries and they are all independent although they all adhere to the seven fundamental principles (humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality). A lot of these National Societies collaborate with each other but most of them don’t have anything to do with the majority of the others. As a result, there’s nobody ‘within the movement’ that truly knows what we have done ‘within the movement’ apart from me. The reason being that in most cases there was no knowledge about Once Upon A Saga when we crossed a border into a new country…because within each new country it was a new National Society. Essentially crossing a border has been like pressing reset. The number of times I have given the exact same introduction speech to a surprised and sometimes baffled humanitarian worker... It is almost comical. Well – it has now been 570 days since I last heard from my contact person at the Danish Red Cross communication department. I wonder if she still works there? Anyway, 102 days in Lebanon. I was sure that Saga record was unbeatable. We were on the home stretch. Welcome to Hong Kong: day 444.

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The Saga has trained my eye's to spot two distict things: 1) the Red Cross emblem in anything and 2) any type of Maersk container. I found this huge Red Cross on top of Lion Rock, Hong Kong.

Four is said to be bad luck in Hong Kong. Apparently because the word for ‘four’ in Chinese sounds like ‘death’. This part of the world is highly superstitious and you will find many people avoiding the number ‘four’ whenever they can. Sometimes buildings go straight from the 3rd to the 5th floor - stuff like that. 444 is supposedly not bad luck because it isn’t ‘four’. It’s an entirely different number albeit with the number four within it several times. It’s just “kind of bad luck”. But not “really bad luck”. It doesn’t worry me at all. I’m not superstitious and furthermore, the way we pronounce ‘four’ in Danish isn’t remotely close to the word ‘death’. April 4th this year (4.4) happened to be the Qingming festival which is also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English. During this festival family members show respect towards their ancestors and the tradition itself has roots which go back over 2500 years. On April 4th this year wifey and I went hiking with Jessi, I had a skype call with my dad and later on wifey and I went for dinner at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club. I don’t remember that day as particularly unlucky? Oh, wait a second…I had spareribs and they weren’t very good. Weird – because the food is normally really good there! It must have been the date ;)

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Public transportation in Hong Kong is phenomenally efficient.

Yeah – before starting this entry I decided that it was going to be a short one. I feel like I do a million things every day. A lot of it is tied to communication or research. And we are still seeing a fair deal of interviews every week. I owe Ross DK and Geoop big time!! They are our financial partners and our friends as well. I’ve known Lars, Claus, Helle, Jesper, Poul, Wojciech, Kaare and several others from Ross for many years. We’ve worked together, dined together and joked together on several occasions. In 2013 I presented them with a “four-year project” and they have committed to far more than that. Well….so have I and so have many of you. My goodness I wish this project was over. It will take MINIMUM ten months to complete the Saga from the moment the world goes back to normal. That is the reality of non-flight travel and the remaining nine island nations between us and the completion of this project. Oh well, still happy that we got stuck in Hong Kong. My father suggested I should stop using the word ‘stuck’. But that is reality. While this is a good place to get stuck, we are so definitely still stuck. Long ago my father also suggested that I should avoid swearing in my entries…I took that advice (for the most part). Many are blissfully unaware of reality this planets current reality. The other day I read that there are still 200,000 seafarers stuck at sea. I hold a Hong Kong ID and have no way of crossing the border to mainland China or neighboring Macau. Meanwhile if I was willing to fly… Oh well, here’s the week that went…

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Wifey and I decided to celebrate all our achievements over the past seven+ years in one day: First we walked into central. That's a 12km (7.5mi) hike which we enjoy as it shows various sides of Hong Kong. Then we had a 45min foot massage at Iyara Day Spa (recommended by Anita). Afterwards we enjoyed lunch at my favorite Lebanese restaurant in Hong Kong (Shahrazad). Then we caught the 'Tea House Theater Experience' at the Xiqu Centre. Next we went to a nearby cinema and watched 'Nobody'. After the movie we had a steak dinner at a nice steakhouse and from there we strolled along the Avenue of Stars and paid tribute to the legendary Bruce Lee. And that's not even all we did that day :)

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY your majesty! :) Today, April 16th, Her Royal Highness Queen Margrethe II of Denmark turns 81. She became our Queen in 1972, and a very fine one at that! I had the privilege of guarding her palace as I served within the Royal Life Guard a few decades ago. Denmark is the oldest Kingdom in the world. Long live the Queen! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! (photo: Per Morten Abrahamsen).

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Billy from Titan Media reached out for an interview and that's how yours truly ended up inside RUNNERS WORLD! And within an addition which featured Hong Kong's legendary Jacky Leung on the front page!! It was the Goggins Challenge which sparked Billy's interest. A challenge in which the goal is to run 4 miles (6.4km) ever 4 hours for 48 hours. A solid challenge.

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We hiked up Lion Rock with the Maersk team!! It had been organized by Olga and Frankie and the weather was beautiful. Maersk is a Danish shipping company which has helped and supported Once Upon A Saga on multiple occasions. It is always great to hang out with them! Thanks for inviting us! :)

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Wifey with a big smile between Lion Rock Peak and Lion Rock head. Lion Rock is almost a sacred place to Hongkongers and holds a special meaning to many.

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Some do not see the Lion. Some people can't see the forest for trees ;)

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Yeah, I've been driving about on Hong Kong's streets for a while when work calls for it. And in this case the Toyota needed a shower. It's interesting working at the Danish Seamen's Church and I get to see a lot of Hong Kong.

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Waiting while wifey got her second jab. Hong Kong is so incredibly efficient with so many things.

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We're now officially a fully vaccinated couple. I never felt a thing. Wifey felt low on energy on her second day after her second jab. But nothing much to report and she wasn't in bed or anything. On her third day we went for a 10km (6mi) run together. Thank you to the scientists and organizers for getting us this far this fast.

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I'm not sure about how good a name 'Comirnaty' is?!? And neither are 80% on Instagram :)

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Although I've had both jabs I still wear a mask and still needed to get tested for my work and within 24hrs I got a test clearing me as 'negative' again.

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And the final one: the title of this entry is due to a 'Hong Kong Bucket List with 100 things you must do in the 852!' '852' is a cool way of saying Hong Kong as that is the calling code. It was a gift from the Savagars and wifey and I are working our way through it. So far we have ticked off eight. On my own I have ticked off far more since the Saga landed in Hong Kong. A lot of obvious Hong Kong stuff isn't even on the list like taking the Star Ferry or enjoying the view from Victoria Peak. But yesterday we got to tick off one more: afternoon tea at the Peninsula. It's a colonial-style luxury hotel which first opened it's doors in 1928. Tick! ;)

 

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

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If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)

 

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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - stranded

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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It is getting harder to complain – still in Hong Kong

Day 2,738 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

Complaining is a national sport in Denmark

pano

Well, well, well…it has been a pretty good week. That is for me of course. I listen to the world news every morning and it sounds like our planet is coming to an end. It is good to know from personal experience that it isn’t…

Last week’s entry: Hong Kong’s most traveled man – day 1 gazillion!

Denmark is not the only country in the world where we can find time to complain about anything. There are many countries like that. It’s to hot, it’s to cold, the tax is too high, I don’t like this, I don’t like that…yeah, real stuff! We don’t get to complain about power outages or water shortages in Denmark because we always have safe drinking water and electricity. But we do get to complain about the train arriving a few minutes late!!! Ahhh…it’s good to be privileged. I wonder if most people are privileged? I guess they are to some degree. A lot of people are suffering though – most aren’t. I wonder how much of a headache the pandemic is to the Red Cross? I mean, they are hard at work on a global scale doing their outmost to inform, educate, implement, assists and alleviate the suffering out there. But there is a lot of humanitarian work which takes priority over a relatively mild virus outbreak. Picture a car crash with two injured passengers. One has a broken arm and the other is bleeding to death. They both need help but stopping the bleeding obviously takes priority over stopping the pain of a broken arm. The Red Cross faces dilemmas everyday in choosing where to direct resources. It’s not always as clean cut as our imagined traffic accident. It could be twenty people bleeding to death. Who do you help first and who do you risk losing? I like to see humanitarian work as a battle we can win. I view it as a finite challenge which can be overcome. Not as an infinite ordeal which we will never see the end of. As such I believe that we are doing better now than ever before and that we can approach the end of every humanitarian crisis if we continue to push! Support, take action and make a difference. And if we keep pushing then the gap will become smaller and smaller until it is gone. Hmmm…tell that to someone from Myanmar, Mozambique or Yemen. Well…even in those countries some people are privileged. Just not the ones that are hitting the news these days. You can support your local Red Cross or Red Crescent and make a difference.

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You get to buy the weirdest things for seafarers! :)

I try to make a difference. Once Upon A Saga is a noncorrupt project. Believe it or not we haven’t paid out any bribes at all to get as far as we have come. I try to treat people with kindness, respect and dignity…but I’m only human and I have misstepped on a few occasions. I try to stay true to the Saga and accomplish the overall goal of reaching every country in an unbroken journey completely without flying. I’ve never cheated on any of the cardinal rules. If I had broken the twenty-four-hour rule in the Marshall Islands back in late 2019 then we would probably have reached Hong Kong a few weeks earlier and would have been on the ship to Palau before they closed their borders. Who knows how that may have turned out? I think Hong Kong has been the best destination the Saga could have hoped for during the pandemic. And as things played out, I got to get one of the worlds most recognized vaccines against Covid-19 while here. That’s quite optimal! Imagine if I was forced to take some vaccine which half the world didn’t recognize and because of that couldn’t visit the remaining nine countries? That would have been terrible! I feel rather confident that the last nine countries all recognize the Comirnaty COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine aka the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine aka Pfizer vaccine aka BioNTech vaccine aka freedom juice!! I’m not sure anyone calls it freedom juice through :)

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We were invited to join the Savagar's for yet another legendary BBQ with good food in great company. Neighbors and friends came around and it was good to see everyone.

I have my wifey by my side, I’m healthy, I’ve had both jabs ahead of most of this planet, I have a roof over my head, I get plenty of food, I have easy access to videocalls with friends and family, I have friends in Hong Kong and I’m free to move about. Hong Kong has the virus under control and it has been like that throughout the pandemic. There are certainly worse places I could be. They are now talking about opening up travel bubbles again so the future is looking pretty bright. In any case Hong Kong has been overwhelmingly good to the Saga. I like Hongkongers a lot. In a very generalizing way, I would describe them as truly kind yet resolute. I have encountered more than one upset Hongkonger during my time here, but it’s rare. Contrary I have experienced a lot of kindness. A small example comes from some nights ago when wifey and I went out to have “running sushi”. For those who do not know what that is it can be described as sushi on a small conveyor belt which runs past your seat in the restaurant. The line to get inside the restaurant was enormous but suddenly half the queue tried to inform us that the staff had room for two. We didn’t understand as we do not speak Cantonese but several people in the queue spoke English and helped us to the front of the queue. Apparently, the large queue had formed because everyone in front of us wanted to be seated together in larger groups. Somewhere else in the world we would have waited and nobody would have told us. But not here in Hong Kong.

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We made a pitstop at IKEA and tried out the Swedish meatballs. Still plotting to visit all four in a day and having meatballs at each one.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Hong Kong is great because of all its opportunities. The outdoors life is great with all the beaches, mountains, trails and waterfalls. Media has been very generous to Once Upon A Saga while in Hong Kong and often thanks to Hong Kong Tourism Board. In fact, we have now done interviews in roughly 170 countries around the world and I am not aware of any negative news. That is kind of an achievement on its own. It is possible to buy nearly anything in Hong Kong. It is easy to get something sent to Hong Kong as well. Highspeed internet and open access is abundant here. The local transportation system is efficient and immigration has been very supportive. Yeah – we could have done much worse than getting stranded here. I would prefer to be back home but this is the best option given that we had to get stuck somewhere. And the restaurants are good too! Prices range from cheap to reasonable and all the way up to “are you kidding me who would pay that much!!” A few nights ago, Anita and Christian joined wifey and I for dinner at a great Italian restaurant in central Hong Kong. They are such a nice couple with a rich history from their time in Hong Kong but just as much from around the world. They are both in the watch business but not competing. Although perhaps always competing :) Anita is a senior director at Fossil Group while Christian is behind Von Vogel custom watches, which is a really cool idea. So, they are both playing with a full hand and together they have their three-year-old little darling Victor aka the tornado! That boy has more energy than the Duracell Bunny! But he’s cute and gets away with almost anything.

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Didn't manage to take a picture when we were out with Anita and Christian. But here are two turtles: Pelle and Palle.

Someone special arrived in Hong Kong! Jessi is a friend from 2018 when I first met her in Oman. Back then Jessi was working at the luxurious Anantara Jabal Al Akhdar Resort and set the Saga up for a few nights during our 150-country celebration! Jessi later went on to work at a luxurious resort in the Maldives where we were planning on celebrating the completion of Once Upon A Saga together with Gunnar Garfors (two times to every country in the world) and Lexie Alford (formerly the youngest to visit every country). That was to take place in October last year but the pandemic got in the way of that. Due to the logistics of the Saga I had to visit Oman twice and wifey came to visit me during the second round. Back then we went out for dinner and good times with Jessi who recently completed her 21-days of quarantine here in Hong Kong! I’m not aware of anywhere else which holds 21-days of quarantine for newly arrivals? Not only that, but it has to be hotel quarantine. It is a real deterrent for people wanting to leave Hong Kong for a few weeks. Nonetheless Jessi made it through and is now in Hong Kong to start a new exciting job! And it was wonderful to reunite with her again.

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Conquering Needle Hill with Wifey and Jessi. Nothing but smiles.

We were either going for a lunch date or a hike. Jessi is fit and has accomplished a triathlon in recent years but it was hard to access how much of a hike she would be up for? Just out of quarantine? Oh, to heck with it…we went all in and invited her to join us across three of Hong Kong’s highest peaks as we conquered MacLehose stage seven and eight. That amounts to 16km (10mi) across a 1,500m (5,000ft) elevation gain including Needle Hill, Grassy Hill and Tai Mo Shan. You know, on and off I get the question: “do you think a woman can do what you do (every country without flying)?” Knowing how complicated this project has been I tend to doubt that this will ever be done again. But my overall assessment is that women can do anything they put their heart and mind into. My wifey is a strong woman and very accomplished. Jessi is a focused woman who has created her own luck. And both of them completed the hike with me. Of course they did.

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It was a very foggy and mysterious hike. But in good company. And cows!

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And we finished our hike with a meal consisting of dim sum. A Hong Kong specialty!

Me oh my…these times we live in. I like the American standupper Bill Burr. I think he is funny and often on point. I once heard him joke about how problematic the internet was. Before the internet strange people with strange ideas would be ashamed and alienated. Today anyone with a perverse or crazy idea can go online and find likeminded people – and together they can form a community and reassure each other. Bill Burr made it funny by adding attitude and examples. The premise of his joke is however true. No matter what you believe in, you can find information online, which will back your opinion. No matter what!! If you believe the earth is flat then you will find plenty of articles and videos describing how that is true. If you search for information which disproves the notion that the earth is flat then you will find that too. But who truly spends time searching for information which proves themselves wrong? I shared a “harmless post” stating that I had received both jabs of the Covid-19 vaccine, that I was feeling fine and that I was hopefully that this would help us reach the final nine countries. And I received a great deal of praise and support. Fantastic! Thank you very much. Oh – the antivaxxers, conspiracy theorists and other hardliners appeared. I did not realize that my post was an invitation for some to share information on “the devils mark”, “world economy being reorganized” and “big pharma’s global conspiracy”. My goodness…when did common sense and logic go out the window?

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The nurse was kind enough to let me take this selfie while getting vaccinated. I've got more than thirty vaccines already so I'm happily welcoming this one too.

I understand how some people would be hesitant in relation to receiving a newly developed vaccine. But I have to believe that everything has been tested rigorously and that whichever worst-case scenarios exists…they are not dire. Our lives and societies are based on trust. We do not have enough time to become experts on every subject. How often do we check the brakes on a bus before taking our seat? How come we are willing to accept the potential long-term risks involved with using smartphones? Would you take painkillers if you thoroughly read the warnings which come with them? I’m statistically not at great risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. I’m forty-two years old and healthy. Things might look different in another forty years. Time is relative but most of us do not get to sense it in any other way that the very real effect of aging. You’re older now than when you first began reading this entry. You will be older still before I reach my point! ;) If we do not do our outmost to contain the spread of this virus now then it will continue to take 2-4 million lives a year. Sure, not many out of the entire world population and furthermore mostly the elderly and weak. Hmmm…in forty years I will belong to that group! I guess the best thing I can do for my future self is to act today. My point: not getting vaccinated is short sighted.

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And wifey and I have agreed on a beard length: 9mm :)

Yeah – that was my rant this time around. On a final note, I am kept busy with interviews, research, emails, social media, meetings, marriage, the household, fitness, my job at the Danish Seamen’s Church, upcoming collaborations, and friends: foreign and domestic :) My Hong Kong friends are important to me. They are a resourceful bunch. On that subject I really value our Thursday’s “hiking group”. We are a core of “members” and then we have “guest walkers” come and join on an on and off basis. It is a great tradition and in its simplest form we meet up at 6pm on most Thursday’s, powerwalk for about two hours, end up around a table and enjoy a good meal and some diverse conversation until it’s time to go home. Last night I hosted the boys and wifey had cooked a delicious lasagna for us. Conversations around the table varied from Sabrina’s 1987 hit ‘Boys’ to what sells better: gelatin or ammonium bicarbonate. Another good night in good company ;)

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Always a pleasure!! Will miss these guys when the Saga moves on.

Best estimates for getting out of here would be around June 2021. Probably not before. We have a friend in Palau and plenty of friends within shipping. Let’s see what’s next…

10

And thanks to Pil, Martin and the Bendorff family for dinner! We had it at the FCC :)

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop

 

If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)

 

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Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - see you next Friday

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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Hong Kong’s most traveled man – day 1 gazillion!

Day 2,731 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

Time is relative

pano

Have we been stuck in Hong Kong for 430 days or has it been a lifetime? I had a videocall with my friend Lars in Denmark. He said that if I ever got a world record then it should be for endurance. Yeah…maybe.

Last week’s entry: The people we care about – and more Hong Kong

Life has slowed down for me lately. It is funny how it comes in waves. My job as an assistant at the Danish Seamen’s Church has been a little quiet compared to before. Lately I have been spending a lot of time on placing a large food order in Denmark and organizing its delivery to the Seamen’s Church. The Seamen’s Church is pretty much self-sustainable and survives on social events (which 2020 wasn’t a great year for), the Christmas Bazar (which was limited last year), on donations and on the web shop. The web shop primarily sells Danish food products/delicacies but has been running low on stock for a while. We’ve however got plenty of powdered baking ammonia (hjortetaksalt) if you’re craving some? I took the car to get it washed. It has recently been repaired as the central locking was out of order. All I needed to do was coordinate with Mr. Chan who’s the preferred mechanic. It took a while to get the spare parts but once Mr. Chan had them it took less than a day for him to install it. The Seamen’s Church is in an industrial area located right next to the international port. It’s a dusty place! The car needed another wash only a few days after it had been cleaned. It’s also my job to keep the “Danish Room” clean and tidy. It’s a large room used for various events, gatherings, lunch arrangements, and as a general hang out for seafarers. “Danish Room” has been a pretty quiet place throughout the pandemic as seafarers have not been permitted to disembark their ships except during crew changes. However, I get to communicate with the Danish flagged ships and help them out if they need anything. In early March it was quite demanding as several ships had some very specific requests, which had me running all over Hong Kong. Quite time consuming but interesting nonetheless. Lately there have hardly been any Danish flagged ships. And the ones which arrived to Hong Kong have been very easy to service. They mostly just wanted news papers in various languages which I download and print for them.

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Ready to hand over newspapers and mosquito traps at the gangway of the good ship Susan Maersk.

There have been a few interviews here and there but not what I expected. I thought that the story of how my wife and I got reunited in Hong Kong would have received more attention. It was reported on by Mette who writes for a Danish newspaper (MJA). She did a great job as usual. Mette has written several articles about Once Upon A Saga. “getting stuck in Hong Kong nine countries from reaching a unique goal” equals newsworthy. “getting stuck in Hong Kong nine countries from reaching a unique goal and spectacularly getting reunited with wife after nineteen months apart through an online marriage in spite of a global pandemic and a year long entry ban on Hong Kong” – not really newsworthy? Who would have thought? But at least it’s nice that it has been quiet for a while. It has offered us more time together with less interruptions. Getting wifey to Hong Kong was a major bureaucratical accomplishment. And a huge headache!! That too took a lot of my time but it’s also behind us now. And I’m not running any crazy physical challenges right now so that also frees up lots of time. Social media also seems less demanding. There’s still about a thirty-hour workload per week but that is nothing when sixty is the norm and crazy times are way above. So, it feels a little odd with the extra spare time. But good.

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Last weekend wifey and I hiked up my favorite mountain in HK: Ma On Shan.

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It is quite the climb - but well worth it.

I used to be nicknamed “the only tourist in Hong Kong”. The borders have been closed for non-residents since March 2020. Personally, I have never viewed myself as a tourist but it’s a cute nickname. Now that I hold a Hong Kong ID, a Hong Kong driver’s license, a work visa and a job, I am no longer a “tourist”. I figure I’m likely Hong Kong’s most traveled person. It was never a goal within Once Upon A Saga, but having reached this many countries without flying has placed me among the three hundred most traveled people in the world. What are the odds that someone within Hong Kong outranks me? Titles and nicknames. They have their functions in this world of ours. For a while I have been calling my wife for ‘wifey’. I think it sounds cute and I’m not sure where it came from. It sounds somewhat Australian to me and I do have several Aussie friends so that could be where I heard it. 4-5 people have now written to let me know that it is a derogatory term. Is it though? I needed to do some research and the first search result on google clearly explained it was derogatory. Okay – then it must be. Or…perhaps it depends on where in the world you are? Maybe the word has changed its meaning over time? Could there be more to it? I looked deeper and found this in the urban dictionary: ‘wifey - The girl that is always there for you. The one that you were destined to be with.’ Now that’s more like it! The meaning of several words has changed over time. ‘Awful’ used to be synonymous with awesome. ‘Fantastic’ used to mean something which was imagined. ‘Nice’ was a negative term for a stupid, ignorant or foolish person. The list goes on. In recent years some of us Danes have been giggling over the term ‘bae’. It usually refers to a person's romantic partner, especially a boyfriend or girlfriend. However, in Danish ‘bae’ means poo. While researching the term ‘wifey’ I came across this blog by a fellow named George who has been calling his wife for ‘wifey’ for more than three decades. George has come across much of the same material as I have in his research. And George has done a very fine job writing his blogpost. My wifey knows that when I call her as such, then it is a term of endearment. Because she knows that I love her very much.

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Wifey got her first haircut in ages! Restrictions in Denmark have prevented it.

3b

We caught a free concert at the Xiqu Center with artist playing the Guzheng.

The Saga has enjoyed a collaboration with Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), aka Discover Hong Kong, ever since Kate Springer wrote her excellent article for CNN back in April last year. That article was a huge boost for this project and also caught HKTB’s attention back then. Within Once Upon A Saga, we have always been shinning some positive light on our surroundings which serves several purposes. First of all, it’s only fair to be kind to other people’s countries – and the material is often rich and easy to come by. More importantly I find that there is a false narrative being promoted globally and that this world, while not perfect, certainly has a lot more goodness within it than what most people seem to believe. And finally, it just makes everything a lot easier. If the Saga was a negative place where we pointed out hot political topics, mass corruption, inefficiency, death and destruction…then we might not have had access to several collaborations, the support from international shipping companies or a number of the visas which we have obtained. With that in mind I have been very kind to Hong Kong and China since we arrived on January 28th last year. And there is truly plenty to be kind about! Hong Kong is a fascinating corner of this world which a lot to offer. So much more than mere shopping. Wifey has from afar learned a great deal about Hong Kong but now she is here and discovering this pearl on her own. And she often says: “Hong Kong truly has a lot to offer”. I think she is right. Being stuck certainly doesn’t agree with me but at least we got stuck in the right place. And this week I got to take part in the first ‘Hong Kong Super Fans’ event. It was a virtual cocktail party and a huge success. Good fun. We are about 230 “super fans” with less than half of us being inside Hong Kong. Events will continue throughout 2021 on a biweekly basis.

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Following the mixologists direction during the virtual cocktail.

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Conquering the aptly named 'Bride's Pool Nature Trail'. Stunning views!! 

I might not know what the “Brooklyn of Hong Kong” is or where you’ll find the best shrimp paste. But I can name a fair amount of Hong Kong’s peaks just by looking at them. Hiking has been my escape from reality since the early days of the pandemic. No matter the restrictions or the opening hours of restaurants, cafés, offices or museums – the mountains and trails have been there. And it is somewhat meditative and calming to walk in nature. As such it is good for both physical and mental health. Besides, Hong Kong is a lot more beautiful than what most people realize. Not long ago, wifey and I had lunch with Vivian who works at HKTB. I casual asked her why they don’t spend more time promoting the nature aspect and Vivian almost seemed frustrated as she answered: “we do!”. The case being that it is hard to change an image. Most people’s image of Hong Kong is the skyline of the sometimes impossibly tall skyscrapers. Hong Kong has over 9,000 high-rise buildings, of which over 4,000 are skyscrapers standing taller than 100m (328ft) with 480 buildings above 150m (492ft). In Denmark we have five building which are taller than 100m with two of those being tall due to towers/spires. Reality is that HKTB has been promoting the nature aspect for more than a decade but people still think of the city when they hear about Hong Kong. Oh well, perception is reality. The first time I heard someone say “perception is reality” was when Lars Andersen said it many years ago. Lars Andersen is along with Claus Pedersen the founders of Ross.dk which has been the Saga’s project partner since day one. Perception is definitely reality.

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Plover Cove Reservoir as seen from the Bride's Pool Nature Trail.

My goodness I’m grateful for being stuck in Hong Kong where it is easy to come by highspeed internet. It has made it so much easier to have videocalls with friends and family. Something which has made a huge difference to my wellbeing. Lars Thuen and I have been friends since we met in the Danish army back in 1998. We nearly always have a laugh when speaking together and can at times get unreasonably silly. But we also cover some deeper and sometimes dark aspects of life. I also had a chance to get online with Helle and Pernille this week. We meet a business school back in 1996 and just connected. We’ve now been friends for more than twenty-five years! A lot of water under the bridge… I’ll be catching my father on skype tomorrow. Amazing times when we can connect face to face with a loved one across the planet. It’s not exactly like being together but it is fairly close. Nothing beats the real thing though. Wifey and I have been frequenting the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) a few times lately. It’s a member only club with historical and political significance for Hong Kong. And it is technically a journalist club while two-thirds of the members aren’t journalist. But we did run into one last time. The one and only Johan Nylander of Dagens Industri, where he works as their China Correspondent. He’s written a few books as well and has been a good friend since we met last year.

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In front of the Joe Honda photo exhibition at FCC with Johan Nylander.

I should be getting my second jab next week. Some people believe it is an elaborate hoax. Some people are worried. Some people are true believers. The pandemic has existed for more than a year now and people’s opinions vary. Everyone has something to say on the topic and few are wearing lab coats. It reminds me of Tour de France. Every year when Tour de France comes around, millions of “experts” appear. I’ve had my own opinions about COVID-19 and some of them have held true while others have been debunked by time. There’s a reason why experts study for many years: the complexity and depth of certain subjects cannot be understood by reading an article. I trust that the vaccine they shoot into my arm is well tested. Sure – we don’t know what the long-term effects might be but I must assume that we know enough when the experts deem it safe. And what is next? Well, hopefully the vaccination will help to normalize this world of ours to such a degree that we can begin traveling as normal again. It seems that there are several travel bubbles being discussed and even our old friend Palau has now opened up for tourism again. So, if you are willing to hop on an airplane then go and enjoy Palau. It will be some time before we can reach such countries without flying but I sense that we are heading in the right direction.

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What a night!! Great company!! From the right around the table: Le (wifey), Jesper, Thomas, Poul, Amy, Jakob, Kai, Rose, Kenneth and yours truly.

And finally, easter arrived. That means wifey had a few extra days off from work which in turn meant a few more full days for us to enjoy. For a long time now, I have been hiking for two hours every Thursday evening together with “the boys”. We’ve called our small social hiking group a few different things over time and it’s always good to get out there. The concept is that about 5-6 of us meet up, hike for about two hours and then continue to socialize around a homecooked meal and some red wine. Given that it takes place on Thursdays it’s usually not a wild affair as people need to get up and go to work the following day. Besides, my party-night days are a few decades behind me and I’m the youngest one in the group. But this was easter and we had Friday off. Jakob was hosting the homecooked meal and his lovely wife Kai (from Thailand) cooked the most amazing Thai meal you could ever imagine!! Jakob is a great guy who always wants the best for his friends. And given that Friday was a day-off, Jacob had several times announced that “the bar” was fully stocked. It was a special night as we had invited the wives to join as well. All in all, a very lovely evening in great company. But in spite of a good hike, a spectacular meal, outstanding company and an overall successful night…I decided to get sick on the floor of Amy’s Maserati as she offered us a ride home. Oh Amy!!! I am soooooooo sorry!! So, so sorry!! Wifey had a more “adult” approach that evening and mostly drank water. So, she has been caring for me. ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…’

‘wifey - The girl that is always there for you. The one that you were destined to be with.’

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

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If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)

 

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Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - grateful.

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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